Hi people. I'd thought we'd take a moment out of our #HokeDeadManClapping and #HarbaughOrDie programming to talk about our highly successful basketball team and a pretty nice basketball matchup in less than 36 hrs. I apologize in advance for the interruption of your F5ing.
Syracuse comes in unranked after starting top 25 and is not at elite levels seen in recent levels - but that probably applies to UM as well. Both are quite young teams. Their 5-1 record includes 4 tomato cans, a 14 point loss to 5-1 Cal (who lost 71-55 to a surging Texas team), and a win by 3 over Iowa. The latter is significant as Iowa is going to be one of those teams that could finish anywhere from 2nd to 8th in what looks to be an extremely congested Big 10 filled with teams of similar power. Iowa is 5-2 but the other loss is to that same Texas team - by 14. Transitive that as you wish.
Matchups - as always with Michigan this year, the eye first darts to the opposing big men to see what sort of issues with rebounding and defense we might face. Syraucse plays a 9 man-ish rotation with a heavy emphasis on the top 7 so we'll focus on the starting 5 and then 1 backup forward who gets a ton of minutes. To that end, Syracuse poses some difficulties in matchups due to size (we'll be saying that a lot this year). Their top 2 players - SR Rakeem Christmas and FR Chris McCullough (5 star, #19 recruit in the nation) have some serious length at 6'10 and 6'9 respectively. Christmas is 250 and McCullough 220. McCullough was the leading scorer vs Iowa with 20 pts so the "rough and tumble" Big 10 style is no skin off this freshman's nose. He is being viewed already as a 1 and done lottery pick.
The theme of length continues as the starting backcourt of JR Trevor Cooney and FR Kaleb Joseph are 6-4 and 6-3. SO Tyler Robinson is the 5th starter and a genuine F at 6'8, 212. So to review the starting frontcourt is 6'10, 6'9, 6'8 with a backcourt of 6'4 and 6'3.
Coming off the bench and getting major minutes as a forward is JR Michael Gbinije and he checks in at 6'7. The starting guards play the bulk of the minutes of Cuse - 33 minutes each, so we'll just focus on their games. Obviously the injury to Walton is a big wildcard in the matchups
- JR Cooney averages 10.2 PPG on a ho hum 40% FG shooting - consistent with last year's numbers. 3 pt shooting is bad at 27% but last year he did make 37.5% so has potential - just not been shooting great from behind the 3 this year. He does jack up over 5 a game. His supporting stats show nothing that stands out - about 2 rebounds per game and 2 assists. 1.5 steals a game which is Caris LeVert territory and a far cry from the bevy of steals a host of Nova players wielded. Cooney is a very average SG; he'll take a lot of shots and miss many.
- FR Joseph is a youngin, top 50 recruit who is getting his feet wet in a Walton Jr 2013 type of way. Teams with true freshmen PGs usually struggle some early. Very thin at 165 lbs, this is a guy a healthy Walton Jr should overpower on offense when he wants to drive - if its Spike, not so much. Joseph is a very nice shooter at 45.5% from the field but his range is limited. He has taken four 3 pointers all year and missed them all. He averages 8.5 PPG. He is more of a traditional point guard, with a fantastic 5.8 assists a game (Walton is at 3 for comparison), and rebounds well at just under 4 a game. He is a bit sloppy with the ball, with 3.5 turnovers a game.
- SR Rakeem Christmas is the star here but McCullough is right behind. Christmas has made a quantum leap in his game from even a year ago - much like a Frank Kaminsky did. He averages 17.5 PPG vs last year's 5.8. FG% 56% which is solid for a big man. He gets to the line 7 times a game and shoots a decent 70% there. He is foul prone averaging 4 a game. He rebounds a hefty 9 rebounds a game and averages 2.3 blocks a game. At 250 lbs, this looks like another matchup for our young and already invaluable Ricky Doyle. We have 15 fouls to give with our 3 headed monster at center but in terms of physicality minutes when Doyle is on the bench will be testy.
- Super FR McCullough is an old school forward and was ranked about 10 spots ahead of Kam Chatman. The lanky forward's game game is entirely within the 3 pt line, and he is very effective at 58%. Averaging 15.3 PPG he is probably going to be playing for a bad NBA team in 12 months. He gets the line a lot, drawing 6 FTs a game - and is a stupendous rebounder for a young man at 8.5 a game. He has hops as well with 2.5 blocks a game. He stays out of foul trouble with only 2.5 a game. There is not a comparable player I can think of on the UM roster the past half decade as Beilein tends to get stretchy forward types with more of an inside out game. This is a super athletic 15 feet and in type of forward. Like GR3 as a frosh he plays monster minutes at 33 per game. Basically he is what we dream DJ Wilson to be as a senior Very tough matchup for Kam.
- SO Tyler Roberson is a ho hum scoring threat as the third forward. Only shoots 37% and takes 8 shots a game. We want him shooting a lot because it means Christmas McCullough or Jospeh are not. He plays about half the game but still averages 6.5 due to sheer volume of shots. Solid rebounder at 5.0 per game and thats the extent of what he does. He is 6'8 as mentioned above - I expect him to be busy chasing Irvin around much of the night. (Please note - he seems to have an injury bug and might be limited)
- Sub JR Gbinije is the last guy we'll focus on. 6'7 220 he brings good size but challenged offense. Playing 25 minutes a night his 34% shooting is down from last year's 38%. He does take three 3 pointers a game and is hitting them at an astounding 12% clip. Last year he was better at 35%. Modest rebounder at 3.4 he does seem to be a good defender with 2.0 steals a game which for a big man is pretty outstanding.
So that's Cuse in a nutshell. They have 4 guys to really focus on - the starting guards and the twin towers of Christmas and McCullough. 2 of those guys are freshmen but 1 of those is a very special player. They are not going to 3 pt you to death which is a plus. UM has far better outside shooters. Not a super deep team, so if Caris Irvin and Walton* can get drives to the basket and get fouls drawn Syracuse could have issues. Obviously their defense is the program's calling card so we'll see how quickly the freshman have picked it up tomorrow night.
Doyle playing 23-25 minutes and staying out of foul trouble will be important and Kam vs McCullough is a matchup of two of the top 30 recruits in the nation; maybe Kam has a coming out party facing someone he has seen on the camp circuit a lot. Christmas in any sort of foul trouble would be great as would the return of Walton. UM rebounded pretty darn well v Nova all things considered but did not play Beilein ball well in terms of protecting the basketball (turnover situation sucked) - but Nova plays pretty suffocating pressure D. If we can continue to not get obliterated in terms of giving up tons of offensive rebounds vs Cuse it would be a very good thing. This feels a lot like TN v UM from last year's tourney in terms of matchups.
Beilein's full quote: "We're going to try to redshirt Andrew Dakich so that he'd have a fifth year somewhere else."— Brendan F. Quinn (@BFQuinn) November 30, 2014
Bench Mob 4 life
Whoever scheduled this game and this time is a genius. Perfect way to get your mind of this mess of a football team.
section 226 row 35
I can do email transfer
Maybe I shouldn't ask this coming off a loss, but I just love this kid's game, and I have to ask: Who is Derrick Walton Jr.? Have we ever had a point guard or a player like this?
He'll miss a shot or make a turnover, but he never seems to make a mistake. I feel supremely confident with the ball in his hands in transition, and I don't think I've ever felt this confident in a player before. He's unflappable. So my question is: Who is he? Have we had this player before?
I'm older than all of you put together, so my frame of reference goes all the way back to Henry Wilmore, whom I saw play as a kid (he was my dad's all-time favorite player). But I'm thinking back to Rickey Green, Eric Turner, Gary Grant, Rumeal Robinson ... we've had great ones, but I don't know that we've had this player before.
So, who is Derrick Walton Jr.?
Was at the game last night. Tough loss, but a good showing against a good team, and a lot of reason to feel good about improvement over the course of the year.
Does anyone know if that was our pep band there? They looked super young (of course, that could be because I keep getting older). They also helped with a t-shirt promo that Barclay's ran during the game. And maybe it was just my ears, but their Victors did not sound like it was played by a band who has played it 25,000 times.